Sharp Corp. is banking on fresh strawberries to help rebuild the fortunes of the struggling electronics giant.
Sharp is planning to start cultivating strawberries on a factory scale basis in the United Arab Emirates in fiscal 2015, by using its technology to artificially control light, temperature and humidity.
The company said Sept. 20 that lab tests got under way in July to cultivate strawberries at a facility within the Sharp Middle East Free Zone Establishment, its subsidiary in Dubai.
It hopes the project will grow into a new line of business that can help rebuild the company.
With a high degree of sweetness, Japanese-grown strawberries are popular with the wealthy in the Middle East, a region that is unfit for farming because it is covered by desert.
But strawberry shipments from Japan to the Middle East have been a big hurdle due to the distance and ease with which the fruit can spoil.
Sharp decided to cultivate strawberries in a controlled environment in Dubai using a light-emitting diode light source to facilitate photosynthesis and Plasmacluster technology for managing air quality and other techniques to monitor room temperature and humidity.
This approach will allow the company to gather data on cultivation techniques to achieve stable production of strawberries.
The project uses seedlings brought from Japan.
The company expects to manage unmanned factories in Dubai through remote control from Japan.
"If we can generate results in cultivating strawberries, a plant that is difficult to grow, we can apply the technology to other farm products," a senior Sharp official said.
Sharp has been involved in growing strawberries on a trial basis since 2009.
The company said the quality of such strawberries is comparable to those circulated in the Japanese market.
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